Fortress New Zealand postpones full reopening to October


Shoppers walk through a retail district following the easing of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions in Auckland, New Zealand, November 10, 2021. REUTERS/Fiona Goodall

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  • New Zealand to end state quarantine for vaccinated arrivals
  • 10 days of home self-isolation still required
  • Australian tourists will be allowed entry in July

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY, Feb 3 (Reuters) – New Zealand on Thursday announced a gradual reopening of its border which has been largely closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but travel agencies said that self-isolation rules needed to be scrapped to revive the struggling tourism sector.

New Zealanders vaccinated in Australia can return home from February 27 without being required to stay in state-run quarantine facilities, while New Zealand citizens from the rest of the world can do so two weeks later said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Vaccinated foreign backpackers and some skilled workers can come to the country from March 13, while up to 5,000 international students will be allowed to enter from April 12.

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Tourists from Australia and other visa-free countries will not be allowed entry until July and travelers from the rest of the world will be excluded until October under the plan.

All travelers should still self-isolate for 10 days, Ardern said.

Opening borders in a managed way would allow people to come together and help fill labor shortages while ensuring the health care system could handle an expected surge in cases, Ardern said.

“Our strategy with Omicron is to slow the spread, and our borders are part of that,” she told a business audience in Auckland. The highly contagious variant of the virus currently dominant in the world was recently detected in New Zealand, and the number of cases is slowly increasing.


New Zealand has had some of the toughest border controls in the world for the past two years as the government tried to keep the coronavirus out.

Foreigners were barred from entry, and citizens wishing to return had to either make emergency requests to the government or obtain a place in the state’s quarantine facilities, called MIQs, via a website.

Critics called the system unfair. Opposition National Party leader Christopher Luxon described the MIQ as a “lottery of human misery”.

The policies have helped keep infections and deaths low. A country of five million people, New Zealand has so far around 17,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and just 53 deaths.

But it has also left tens of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders cut off from their families back home, led to job losses for residents and been devastating for businesses dependent on international tourists.

A pregnant journalist who was trapped in Afghanistan highlighted the problem of border controls last week. She has since secured a spot at MIQ and plans to return in March.

The travel and tourism sector has criticized the self-isolation rules, saying they prevent any significant recovery in what had been the country’s main source of foreign currency until recently.

“People don’t want to fly to New Zealand if they have to spend their first week sitting in a hotel,” said Kevin Ward, chief executive of the New Zealand Airports Association.

He said analysis from Auckland Airport (AIA.NZ) showed demand from the Australian visitor market is estimated at just 7% of 2019 levels if self-isolation requirements remain in place .

A spokesperson for Australian travel agency Flight Center (FLT.AX) said the isolation requirements would be a “dealbreaker” for the vast majority of potential travellers.

New Zealand Tourism Export Council CEO Lynda Keene said the self-isolation rule was a “complete handbrake that will keep New Zealand disconnected from the world, not reconnected”.

Ardern said the government would review self-isolation requirements.

“It will be a much more meaningful reopening for tourists if they can enter with less isolation,” she told reporters.

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Reporting by Praveen Menon and Jamie Freed; Editing by Leslie Adler, Bill Berkrot and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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